The city of Tallinn sprawls around the medieval hill of Toompea where a fort was first built in 1050. A castle now perches atop the gleaming limestone cliff, steeped in myth and legend. The hill itself is a labyrinth of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways which comprise the old town. This area is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The new town spreads from the base of the hill, circled by the original city wall. Legacies of Swedish, Russian and Soviet occupation remain. The city became the capital of independent Estonia in 1991.
Exploring Tallinn by bike is a pleasure, with a brilliant network of cycle paths throughout the city. Meander through green parks and historic streets out to the coast. The old town is best explored at a leisurely pace and there are excellent walking tours. Once a bustling trading town, the atmosphere is as well preserved as the architecture.
The view from the top of Toompea is characterised by ginger-bread rooftops and fairytale spires built between the 15th and 17th centuries. If you are an early bird then visit the castle at sunrise for an atmospheric experience: the Estonia flag is raised to the tune of the national anthem. Raekoja Plats in the midst of the old town is a quaint square lined by restaurants and cafes, dominated by the 13th century town hall. Venture inside to find the Tallinn City museum and explore the past in more depth. Old Town Days festival is held in the square every spring, when it comes to life with traditional crafts, costume and a medieval style market.
Wander down St Catherine’s Passage for a delicious slice of bygone Estonian life, where craftswomen work in the miniature cottages selling traditional wares from hats and jewellery to glass. Next, find yourself a local tavern down one the narrow medieval streets and order a Vana Tallinn, the sweet liqueur which is the city’s signature drink.
Beyond this quaint, medieval architecture are the remnants of the city’s Soviet past. Concrete blocks of flats stand as crumbling memorials to this era. Climb what remains of the original city wall and look out from the tower to see Tallinn’s timeline represented by its varying architecture from the medieval centre outwards.
The Open Air Museum is set within a deep dark wood, the perfect setting to view the many historic houses and structures which have been preserved there. Wander back through time with dance performances from the Folklore Society and working examples of traditional Estonian craft and culture.
The Estonian Song and Dance Celebration is a rare treat, taking place once every five years. With some 90,000 attending, if you can schedule your trip to coincide with this event then do so. Here you will find the overwhelming Estonia spirit at its full force.
After you’ve explored the city, head to its Baltic beaches. Just outside the centre is a 2km stretch of sandy shore, the perfect place to wind down and reflect after a few days sightseeing and culture.
Last Edit by sophie mcgovern on 11/10/2011 EDIT NOW >>